Celebrating 30 years of World Heritage in the UK
Guest blog by Henry Owen-John, Head of International Advice, Historic England
On November 29th Historic England, in partnership with WHUK and others, organised a parliamentary reception to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UK’s first World Heritage Sites. At the event hosted by Historic England Commissioner Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey on the terrace of the House of Lords, the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, spoke of her own enthusiasm for some of the UK’s WHSs that she had visited with her family. She also drew attention to figures just published in Heritage Counts https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/heritage-and-the-economy/heritage-and-the-economy-2016.pdf/ that show that 40 million people, participate in heritage – almost 75% of the population. The Secretary of State praised the work done by all those involved in the management and promotion of the UK’s WHSs.
Baroness Lola Young and Secretary of State Karen Bradley (all images copyright Historic England)
40 MPs and 20 members of the Upper House were present together with 150 people from across the heritage sector in the UK to hear Sir Laurie Magnus the Chair of Historic England and Duncan Wilson talk passionately about WHSs and what they mean to communities across the world. Duncan suggested that the words of Croatian writer, Slavenka Drakuliç, on what the destruction of the bridge at Mostar meant to her, epitomised everyone’s passion for outstanding heritage: ‘We expect people to die; we count on our own lives to end. The destruction of a monument to civilisation is something else. The bridge in all its beauty and grace, was built to outlive us; it was an attempt to grasp eternity. It transcended our individual destiny. A dead woman is one of us. But the bridge is all of us forever.’ The backdrop to these words was an image of a joyous celebration of the reconstructed bridge at Mostar.
Sir Laurie Magnus and Duncan Wilson, the Chair and CEO of Historic England
Historic England advises government on meeting the UK’s obligations under the terms of the World Heritage Convention and works closely with World Heritage UK in promoting good practice in the management and presentation of our WHSs and championing their value, not only as places of outstanding universal value, but also as drivers for economic, environmental and social benefit. Duncan Wilson said that while in other parts of the world there were threats from armed conflict and natural disaster, in the UK we had our own challenges in protecting some of our WHSs from over development. However, he also made clear that in the 30 WHS in the UK and its overseas territories we have many examples of good practice which is widely respected on the world stage.
During the event a short video was shown which captured the essence of many of the UK’s WHSs and put over some key messages about the value of world heritage. The video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhidUvtRR-M&t=15s